NEW YORK (AP) — After deciding close calls on the field since 1876, baseball opens a high-tech control room this weekend where the fates of batters, pitchers, runners and fielders will be decided by umpires up to 2,600 miles away.
Starting with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ game at the San Diego Padres on Sunday night, the U.S. opener of the 2014 season, players, managers and fans will turn their attention to the ROC — the Replay Operations Center.
In a dimly lit room of just under 1,000 square feet in the Chelsea Market in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, umpires and technicians will make the decisions that could decide games and championships.
More than $10 million has been spent wiring the 30 big league ballparks with Fiberlink cable that will transmit the images from at least 12 cameras at every site.
Preventing ‘botched’ calls
The move is an effort to prevent the type of botched calls that cost Detroit’s Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010.
“I’m happy for the managers,” said Joe Torre, an MLB executive vice president overseeing the new system. “Maybe it will keep them from having one or two more sleepless nights if they are able to grab one and overturn it.”
The room has its own power supply in case of a blackout — with batteries as a second auxiliary — and a stand-alone heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that keeps the temperature at 72 degrees.
There are dozens of televisions, more than enough to make it resemble NASA’s Mission Control. Outside the room, next to a modernist black sofa, is a 55-inch NEC screen, with another just inside the entrance. Walk in, and there’s 65-inch Pentus TV to your left.
On each side are three stations, each to be staffed with a technician on the left and a major league umpire on the right.
Every station has four 46-inch screens — three Planars for each pod, with a higher-quality Sony directly in front of each umpire’s seat. The umps will wear headsets and can push a button to speak with their colleagues at any stadium.
“I’ll see more games than the Fan Cave,” quipped Justin Klemm, a former minor league umpire and big league fill-in who was hired last month as MLB’s director of instant replay.
Baseball ignored instant replay, even as it was first used by the NFL in 1986, the NHL in 1991, the NBA in 2002 and the Little League World Series in 2008.